- Review by Kaya Savas - December 12, 2018
Bad Times At The El Royale is the latest example of an original concept film that came and went before anyone could blink an eye. In fact, by the time I got to writing this review, the film will be out on home video in less than a month. It proves frustrating for people interested in auteur filmmakers like Drew Goddard and Michael Giacchino trying to tell original stories. Unfortunately, in the eyes of a movie studio, this just reinforces that we need more Jurassic Worlds and more Marvel.
Anyway, that could have lead to a long rambling rant, so let’s cut that short. Back to the score. Bad Times At The El Royale is a stylish neo-noir film from Drew Goddard. Despite the fact that Goddard has a strong connection with Giacchino by having written Cloverfield, episodes of LOST and Alias, the two have never worked as director and composer before this. For their first direct collaboration, Giacchino was tasked at scoring a 2 and a half hour noir that features an ensemble cast of characters. No easy feat.
The score itself is rather subdued for Giacchino, it definitely is a slow-burn that lays down a soft foundation before picking up the pace. The album features some meaty tracks that showcase how Goddard and Giacchino used music to structure big scenes. The way Giacchino builds the tracks here is extremely impressive, and even though structurally it may seem simple, the music is always working to contain this ambitious film together. Stylistically, the score is noir-ish. In fact, the music has a lot of the elements that made Giacchino's work on LOST so successful at building tension. The music tends to keep things stringing along until you have these massive eruptions that jolt you. The emotional core is held in the central motif that is woven throughout. The use of the electric cello was a pleasant surprise in this score, mainly because we never hear it in Giacchino’s repertoire, but it works well to add some nice textures. Giacchino called on the talents of Martin Tillman, whose of course known for his work with Hans Zimmer. The score comes together and does some great dread-building till we hit the climax and conclusion.
Bad Times At The El Royale is a hefty but low-key score. This isn’t thematically bold or bombastic in any way, but rather intricate and atmospheric with bursts of intensity. The way Giacchino uses textures to build the soundscape envelopes you into the narrative for a successful noir-fueled journey. At times the score doesn’t even sound like Giacchino, certain chords evoke even a Zimmer or Jablonsky sound, but that’s also what makes this score feel a bit fresh and different than what we’ve heard from Giacchino before. If this one slipped past you, definitely go back and explore it.